European ministers to sign joint defence pact
Today, defence ministers from around the EU will meet to discuss and commit to a multilateral defence cooperation initiative, known as a permanent structured cooperation (PESCO).
In a show of post-Brexit unity, the deal—which does not include London—looks to cut wasteful military expenditures by funding and developing military equipment across the continent. It would also look to create a Schengen-style area that would promote the free movement of troops and equipment across participating countries, the common training of officers and the establishment of a crisis response centre.
Still, Germany and France diverge on certain details. Paris favours having a small group of countries bring funding and military resources, whereas Berlin has pushed for a broader, more inclusive pact. France believes a larger organisation could decrease the pact’s effectiveness.
To the chagrin of Paris, it is unlikely that the pact will be limited to a select few countries as almost two-thirds of EU countries are expected to commit to the deal today. France is likely to support the coalition regardless, and it could come into force as early as December.
Venezuelan debt restructuring amid energy default
Today, the Venezuelan government will lead talks with bondholders to try to restructure $60 billion of the country’s debt.
The debt restructuring commission is led by Vice President Tareck El Aissami, who is sanctioned by the US for accusations of drug trafficking. Given the illegality of dealing with people who are officially sanctioned by the US government, it is unclear how many investors will show up.
On Friday, the country’s national electric company, Corpoelec, defaulted on a $650 million bond. Some believe this could pave the way for the termination of Venezuela’s debt payments, which would be the largest default in history.
Though President Nicolas Maduro has been persistent in his efforts to make payments to creditors, experts place the odds of a state default over the next five years at 99%. This would freeze Venezuelan assets overseas and deter creditors from investing in the impoverished country, exacerbating its humanitarian crisis. Though details of today’s talks remain unclear, they will likely dictate Caracas’ financial moves in the short-term.
European lawmakers mull controversial changes to migrant rules
Today, the European Parliament will consider changes to the Dublin rules—the system that regulates how EU countries deal with asylum seekers.
The current rules mandate that the country in which a migrant first arrives is responsible for processing refugee applications. This process usually taking at least six months and imposes a significant financial burden on the receiving country.
This system collapsed in 2015, when over a million asylum seekers arrived, 80% of them in Greece, the world’s most indebted country. Unsurprisingly, Greek authorities thereby abdicated their responsibilities under the Dublin rules and allowed migrants to flock north via the Balkan route.
With backing from Germany, France, Italy, Greece and others, the reforms to be discussed today seek to more evenly distribute the migrant burden among the entire Union.
Not everyone agrees. Populist anti-immigration governments in Poland and Hungary rejected a similar temporary arrangement in 2015 and have dismissed the current reforms. While the pro-reform camp has enough support to institute the changes, doing so risks exacerbating already strained relations between the two countries.
IN SEARCH OF RECOGNITION
Breakaway Somali territory votes for a new president
The de facto independent—but unrecognised—territory of Somaliland holds presidential elections today.
The territory broke away from Somalia after military dictator Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Somaliland has since insulated itself from its neighbour’s instability, priding itself on democratic transitions of power. The government’s foreign policy priority has been attempting to get official recognition as a state from the international community.
In recent years, Somaliland has strengthened its ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia; unlike Somalia, the breakaway region has backed the boycott of Qatar. While the UAE has set up a military base in the country—giving it a foothold in the south end of the Gulf of Aden—and Riyadh began importing livestock this year, the two, like all other states, haven’t granted Somaliland formal recognition.
Whoever wins today’s elections, the victor will certainly continue a foreign policy geared towards international recognition. Somaliland hopes that a well-run, fair election can bolster its chance of gaining that. However, a recent controversy over the banning of social media platforms in the run-up to the vote is one indication that the election may not fulfil that aspiration.
Another South Korean party suffers under corruption cloud
South Korea’s centre-right Bareun Party will vote for a new leader today.
Lee Hye-hoon stood down in September after just three months in the job after she was accused of corruption. The scandal resulted in nine of the party’s 20 lawmakers defecting the main opposition party, Liberty Korea, from which Bareun splintered last December.
With just 11 remaining members, Bareun’s influence in South Korean politics is much diminished; parliamentary rules require a party to have at least 20 lawmakers in order to form a parliamentary negotiating bloc. Along with the political ramifications, the loss of this status means the party’s state funding will be reduced by two-thirds.
On the other hand, the defections give Liberty Korea 116 seats in the National Assembly, which is just five short of President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party.
Rosneft CEO in court, RT to register as foreign agent
Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s largest oil company, will testify in the case against the country’s former Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev. The ex-minister is accused of accepting a $2 million bribe from the Rosneft CEO, who once served as Vladimir Putin’s deputy chief of staff. Ulyukayev maintains his innocence.
The Russian state-funded broadcaster RT has until today to register as a foreign agent in the US.